IFComp 2011: Cana According To Micah, by Rev. Stephen Dawson

This is the fifteenth game I am reviewing for the 17th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition; if you’re a judge, don’t read on unless you have already played and reviewed the game yourself.

Blurb: Being an account of the wedding at Cana, by the servant Micah; in which further details, doubtlessly apocryphal, are given of the event, including his contention with a surly Baptist, an interfering orphan, and a proliferation of women named Mary.

I am almost certain that “Stephen Dawson” is a pseudonym, and I am pretty sure I know whose pseudonym it is, even (which gives me hope, because the author I have in mind has proven ability to put together a decent game). Also, as a semiprivate joke I think of this game as Christian Text Adventure #5, and I’m geared up for zany Biblical fun. I don’t remember much about the Wedding at Cana, except that Jesus made good wine out of water there, and advised his host to serve the awesome miracle-wine before the swill he’d been planning to serve.

Fortunately, that’s pretty much all I need to know, and this game delivers on what its promise, providing a good fun romp with decent puzzles and a nice lighthearted tone, while not being disrespectful to its subject matter (or at least, not as I noticed; I suppose some Christians might take offense at the depictions of John and Joshua). It’s technically very sound; I ran across no errors or conspicuous bits of underimplementation. Writing-wise it’s not quite as sharp: it’s serviceable but ultimately a bit descriptively bland, and I never got a really Biblical (or Victorian) flavor off of it. There’s a moderate variety of puzzles, although there’s also a lot of “ASK EVERYBODY ABOUT EVERYBODY ELSE” conversation lawnmowering, or at least is the way I played it.

In short, I had fun. It’s not without its problems, but, as was the case with Santaland, I have to praise its fundamental technical solidity and maybe give it some extra props for a certain imaginative construction and implementation depth: NPCs are hard and this game has a lot of them. From a technical standpoint I can appreciate how hard that is to do well.

Rating: 8 (7 if I need to nudge it)

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About Jake
I'm a mathematics professor at the University of Louisville, and a geek.

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